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What Is Professional Responsibility in Nursing?

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While each country, state, or healthcare facility a nurse practices in may have slightly different laws or policies governing what professional duties a nurse may perform, professional responsibility in nursing is universal and refers more to a code of conduct and a standard of practice than to specific functions that may or may not be performed by a nurse. Thus, a strong sense of professional responsibility will serve the nurse well regardless of where he or she works.


As a nurse, the safety of your patients is your top priority. When discussing professional responsibility, this means the nurse should always take note of her surroundings and the patient's surroundings and be alert to any safety hazards, including taking steps to remedy any potential problems and ensure the environment is safe for nurses and patients alike.


A responsible nurse is a prudent nurse. When faced with a dilemma, the responsible nurse asks herself what the most appropriate and most ethical course of action would be, thinking carefully over the situation before determining what will be most helpful to the patient in the long run and what actions would be most likely to ensure the continued health and safety of the patient.


A nurse must always be accountable for his actions, or lack of action. Professional responsibility in nursing includes being able to admit when you have made a mistake or an error in judgment, especially if it could potentially result in harm to your patient. Fear of negative consequences from admitting mistakes is common among nurses, but being accountable for your actions and making efforts to remedy the situation will always be considered the mark of a professional and prudent nurse.


Nurses are necessarily in a position of trust with their patients. Patients rely upon nurses to accurately assess and communicate their needs to other members of the healthcare team, to competently perform treatments and administer medications, and to maintain the confidentiality of their medical information. Such trust means that integrity is part of the professional responsibility of the nurse. In reference to nursing, integrity means consistently acting in a manner that promotes and maintains the trust placed in you by your patients and your fellow healthcare team members.

Holistic Care

While nursing is a medical profession, it is also considered an art. It is the art of caring for a person--a whole person. Professional responsibility in nursing dictates that the nurse consider the well being of the patient as a whole, including their physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and relational health. Holistic care is an integral part of maintaining the overall health and safety of patients, and indicates that the nurse is acting in the best interest of the patient and displaying sound judgment.

  • Nursing Ethics and Professional Responsibility in Advanced Practice; Pamela Grace, PhD, APRN; 2009.
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